Russian mother of 7 suspected of treason released

AP News
Posted: Feb 03, 2015 1:22 PM
Russian mother of 7 suspected of treason released

MOSCOW (AP) — A mother of seven accused of spying for Ukraine was released from custody in Russia on Tuesday following public outrage.

Even though Svetlana Davydova was freed, charges against her are still pending. Her youngest child is a 2-month-old baby whom she was breastfeeding.

Davydova, 37, was arrested Jan. 21 at her home in the town of Vyazma, west of Moscow. The Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor, had detained her on charges of treason that carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Investigators haven't revealed details of the accusations, but media reports said Davydova called the Ukrainian Embassy after she had overheard a serviceman on a bus saying he and his comrades were preparing for a trip and decided he was talking about being sent to Ukraine.

Davydova has turned down a lawyer provided by the state and repudiated her initial testimony to investigators after hiring new lawyers.

Her husband, Anatoly Gorlov, attributed her release to a wave of public anger that followed Davydova's arrest, which rights defenders and opposition activists denounced as absurd.

"I think it happened thanks to a clear stance taken by the civil society and because of a strong support by independent media," Gorlov told The Associated Press.

Despite mounting evidence, Moscow denies any role in fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian insurgents and Ukrainian government forces that has killed more than 5,300 people since April.

When the Ukrainian army captured several Russian paratroopers in eastern Ukraine last summer, the Kremlin insisted the soldiers got lost.

Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, argued that Davydova couldn't disclose any secrets because she didn't have access to any, and also because the Kremlin insists that Russian troops haven't been involved in the conflict.

"If all that is just rumors, conjectures and fantasies, then it turns out that Mrs. Davydova is charged for spreading rumors," he told the AP. "This is the height of idiocy and an absolute lawlessness of our law enforcement system."

Nearly 30,000 people have signed an online petition in support of Davydova, and activists picketed the FSB's headquarters in Moscow.

Russian children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said he had petitioned Moscow City Court to release her.

"Despite the gravity of the crime, this one circumstance can't justify keeping a mother of many children behind bars," he said.

Gorlov said he had been called in for questioning by senior regional secret service officers, but had refused to testify against his wife.

"I don't think she's guilty of treason," he said. "I think it's a totally political persecution."